NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 19980055129: Non-Gimbaled Antenna Pointing: Summary of Results and Analysis
Publication date 1998-03-23
Topics NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS), SATELLITE ANTENNAS, SATELLITE TRANSMISSION, SATELLITE NETWORKS, TDR SATELLITES, SATELLITE CONFIGURATIONS, GROUND STATIONS, DATA LINKS, BROADCASTING, DATA TRANSMISSION, SATELLITE DESIGN, DIRECT BROADCAST SATELLITES, SATELLITE ORBITS, INFORMATION FLOW, Horan, Stephen,
There is considerable interest at this time in developing small satellites for quick-turnaround missions to investigate near-earth phenomena from space. One problem to be solved in mission planning is the means of communication between the control infrastructure in the ground segment and the satellite in the space segment. A nominal small-satellite mission design often includes an omni-directional or similar wide-pattern antenna on the satellite and a dedicated ground station for telemetry, tracking, and command support. These terminals typically provide up to 15 minutes of coverage during an orbit that is within the visibility of the ground station; however, not all orbits will pass over the ground station so that coverage gaps will exist in the data flow. To overcome this general limitation on data transmission for low-earth orbiting satellites, the Space Network (SN), operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (NASA) has been designed to transmit data to and from user satellites through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) in geostationary orbit and interfacing to the White Sands Complex (WSC) in New Mexico for the data's ground entry point. The advantage of the SN over a fixed ground station is that all low-earth-satellite orbits will be within the visibility area of at least one TDRS within the SN for a large part of the orbit and the potential exists to establish a communications link if the user satellite can point an antenna in the direction of any one of the relay satellites. Within NASA, there is considerable interest in seeing that small satellite developers are aware of the advantages to the SN and that designs to include the SN are part of the satellite design. Small satellite users have not often considered using the SN because of: (1) The 26-dB link penalty differential between direct broadcast to a ground station and transmission through a TDRS to the ground; (2) The class of satellite is too small to support high-gain antennas and associated attitude control and drive electronics; (3) The class of satellites is severely weight and power limited; (4) There are perceived problems in scheduling communications for this class of user on the SN. This report addresses the potential for SN access using non-gimbaled, i.e. fixed-pointed, antennas in the design of the small satellite using modest transmission power to achieve the necessary space-to-ground transmissions. The advantage of using the SN is in the reduction of mission costs arising from using the SN infrastructure instead of a dedicated, proprietary ground station using a similar type of communications package. From the simulations and analysis presented, we will show that a modest satellite configuration can be used with the space network to achieve the data transmission goals of a number of users and thereby rival the performance achieved with proprietary ground stations. In this study, we will concentrate on the return data link (from the user satellite through a TDRS to the ground data entry point). The forward command link (from the ground data entry point through a TDRS to the user satellite) will usually be a lower data rate service and the data volume will also be considerably lower than the return link's requirement. Therefore, we assume that if the return link requirements are satisfied, then the forward link requirements can also be satisfied.
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